Instructional Design

The Art of Chunking: How Content Organization Affects Learner Comprehension

In our society, chunky can have both positive and negative connotations. Chunky babies and peanut butter: Great. Feeling chunky after the holiday season: Not so great. But when it comes to eLearning content, chunking won’t leave you feeling guilty and scrabbling for a diet. Instead, it’s an excellent way to group together information for the best chance at comprehension.

When working with an SME, you’ll probably find that TMI is the name of the game. After all, your expert has a ton of knowledge that she wants to share with the learner. But all of that information can be completely overwhelming, especially when presented in a stream-of-consciousness format. The concept of chunking allows you to logically group chunks of information together so learners can better experience, absorb and remember. Here’s how.

Why Chunk?

Not only does chunking information result in better comprehension, it also offers some pretty unique organizational benefits, particularly for an instructional designer.

First, let’s face it: The information you get from your SME might need to go on a diet. When there’s simply too much, the most important parts can become drowned out in white noise. Setting up your module or program in chunks helps you and your SME identify the most important information as it pertains to your specific learning objectives.

Second, chunking is a comprehensive way to identify gaps in learning information. Say your SME wants to chunk a concept using three key points. She has a ton of information, media and insight on the first two points, but doesn’t really have enough evidence to support her final opinion. Chunking gives you a chance to identify those learning gaps and either find enough supporting material – or scrap the section altogether.

Chunking also makes for a vital evaluation tool: When information is logically grouped together, you can automatically identify which sections are fulfilling their objective and which ones are completely falling flat for your learners.

The Chunking Matrix

Convinced that chunking is the way to go? Start by implementing a matrix during the design portion of your custom eLearningprogram. That’s where you can most effectively see which groups of content play well together and where you could use some supporting information.

Here’s a quick and dirty way to chunk your content: Put all of your learning goals and objectives together and then start sifting through your information. Begin grouping chapters or sections together and label each chunk with the goal or objective that it fulfills. By the end, you should have clearly matched the right information with a section and an objective.

Bulking up your eLearning modules with a chunking strategy streamlines your strategy and helps organize total information overload. By putting the SME’s thoughts, media and material in comprehensive sections, your training makes more sense to the learning brain – and helps you better match objectives to each chunky chapter.